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Butterfly Vision (Cannes Film Festival Review)

3 min read

Still Courtesy - Wild Bunch International

On television broadcasts, social-media posts, and news-boards; the current cultural landscape of is in a desolate state. As we hear an influx of stories and testimonials — describing the brutality and senselessness of the ongoing war — films of all shapes and sizes aid to provide an accompanying visual to the on-going crisis. As per usual concern, there always comes the question of whether the images present in the context of a real-life tragedy are exploitative to an uneducated viewer. Especially when dealing with the sensitivity and brutality of war, executing intense subject matter is an art-form in & of itself. Film is an essential learning tool; but it's also a tricky medium to master due to the responsibility of what's seen in the frame. When accomplished with harrowing prowess, the end film could eventually reach a global viewership; promoting and advocating peace of a cause in relentless turmoil. For example, the debut feature from Maksym Nakonechnyi is a worthy contender for international appraisal; an intricately woven tapestry of trauma and empowerment which keenly supports the people of Ukraine.

Told subsequently through drone footage, live streams, and internet posts, Nakonechnyi offers a refreshing visual motif revolving surveillance. Butterfly Vision prominently showcases a real-time recollection of lapsed memories and experiences; a narrative told through the strong-willed gaze of an aerial reconnaissance. Through intricate data-moshing, glitch transitions, and non-linear editing — the viewer absorbs the scope of Lilia's trauma. Dreams of aviation are nothing but a nightmare of state barbarity; glimpses of torture and sexual abuse correlating with her present-day disdain and tribulations as a dispatched prisoner of war. They call her butterfly; an ironic sentiment given her will to return to a state of normalcy, as her husband descends into a path of xenophobic patrolling. Nakonechnyi flirts with the surreal; ambience-heavy dream sequences conjuring nightmarish images of floating butterflies and bombed-landscapes. 

Butterfly Vision is evidently dense, a compact anti-war film which details a tale of sociological reform against the public view. It's a rigorous narrative, at-times essential and brutal to sit through; as the film's end-goal aims at sympathising with the victims of the Russo-Ukrainian war. In turn, Butterfly Vision slowly decelerates with a beat-by-beat pace, told with a procedural precision. The depicted events haltingly loses urgency, skimming over essential plot-threads and other important details regarding Lilia's growth. Whilst each scene is justified given the context of the film's real-life events, the central dedication towards the film's loose thesis haphazardly detours Nakonechnyi's inspiring setups. 

As an examination on the unbreakability of the human spirit in the face of great adversity, Butterfly Vision is an aptly directed tale of resilience. It's a cinematic repression of memories, as Nakonechnyi's slight narrative structure is ultimately thorough and impactful on arrival. More importantly, as a document of our times — as a film hollering for an influx of empathy — Butterfly Vision is an endlessly insightful piece infused with plentiful anti-war musings.

Butterfly Vision
Still Courtesy – Wild Bunch International
Butterfly Vision premiered at this year's 75th Cannes Film Festival, as part of the Un Certain Regard competition.